Charleston, WV — The Girl Scouts of Black Diamond and the Buckskin Council, Boy Scouts of America are offering free scouting for children in foster and kinship care, according to a news release.
In statements, Beth Casey, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond, said that scouting provides adult role models, while Jeffrey Purdy, Scout Executive at the Buckskin Council, BSA, added that the programs “are providing structure and support to assist these children so they can become caring, productive adults.”
West Virginia has the highest rate of children in foster care in the nation at a rate of 20.2 per 1,000. That means approximately 20 kids of every 1,000 kids in West Virginia are in custody of the state, according to The Administration on Children, Youth and Families, using data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect from the the federal fiscal year 2019 reporting period (October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2019.)
The national average is 5.8% per 1,000 kids.
West Virginia officials often blame the drug crisis for the high rate of children in foster care, although states with similar opioid overdose rates, such as Ohio and Maryland, have rates of 6.4% and 2.9% per 1,000 kids in foster care, respectively.
A news conference on the free scouting offer was held at 10 a.m. today at The Culture Center Grand Lobby at the State Capitol Complex.
The West Virginia Council of Churches and the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Parents Network are also part of the collaborative effort, which is funded by a Benedum Foundation grant.
“Over time we hope to see this model expand to other organizations and opportunities for youth to develop positive relationships that will support them into adulthood,” said Marissa Sanders, director of the West Virginia Foster Adoptive Kinship Parent Network.
Some parents say transportation to scouting programs is difficult; the funding announced Wednesday does not cover transportation.
As of July, there were 6,494 children in custody of the state in West Virginia. Those children are placed in foster care, kinship care, group homes or emergency shelters, among other placements.
Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council serves nearly 8,000 girls each year in 61 counties in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia and Maryland, according to its Facebook.
The Buckskin Council has a Charleston office; press materials and its website did not state the boundaries of the program, but contact information for both groups can also be found at www.buckskin.org or www.bdgsc.org.
An earlier version of this story included a typo which mischaracterized a rate as a percent. West Virginia has the highest rate of children in foster care in the nation at a rate of 20.2 per 1,000.